Note: I plan on spending a decent amount of class time reviewing the material in this post as a prelude to studying Isaiah in the BoM. We’ll also look at:
–3 Nephi 23:1-3, focusing on the ideas of “searching” and “diligently” as opposed to “skimming” with “resignation.” ;)
–2 Nephi 25:1 (“For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.”), with the idea that the “manner of prophesying” probably includes biblical poetry and, even moreso, unexpected shifts in speaker and audience.
1 The words of Jacob, the brother of Nephi, which he spake unto the people of Nephi:
2 Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector, and on whom ye depend for safety, behold ye know that I have spoken unto you exceedingly many things.
Why ‘beloved’? Does that word as us to think about the disciple/teacher dynamic in the Gospel of John?
I would assume that, just as “brethren” in the NT can mean “brothers and sisters,” it may mean the same thing here.
Why don’t we have the story of his ordination? Were his other brothers similarly ordained, or was Jacob unique? If he was, why Jacob?
“After the manner” is used frequently in the BoM: happiness, language, and, here, holy order. What does this phrase mean?
It seems to me that they should not have been depending on Nephi for safety, but on the Lord. Is what Jacob is describing here a bad thing? Or was it appropriate for them to rely on Nephi for safety? Who should we rely on for safety?
Are ordination and consecration the same thing in this verse?
Picking up a theme from last time: Is Nephi a king? This verse is also, I think, ambiguous.
What does Jacob hope to accomplish by reminding the audience of their relationship with Nephi in this verse?
3 Nevertheless, I speak unto you again; for I am desirous for the welfare of your souls. Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been. For I have exhorted you with all diligence; and I have taught you the words of my father; and I have spoken unto you concerning all things which are written, from the creation of the world.
What do you make of the way that v2-3 combine to be almost an apology for how much Jacob speaks to them?
What does this verse teach us about the appropriate role of anxiety? What does it teach us about the appropriate response to anxiety?
Do you take “all things” as hyperbole? Why or why not?
V2 had three things done to Jacob (called of God, ordained, chosen) and v3 has 3 things Jacob does (exorted, taught, spoken). Is there a link between these two lists?
4 And now, behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah. And they are the words which my brother has desired that I should speak unto you. And I speak unto you for your sakes, that ye may learn and glorify the name of your God.
Re-read v1-3 at this point and consider why they make a good introduction to a recitation of Isaiah.
Do you assume “the brother” is Nephi? If so, why would Nephi (or whoever) want Jacob to do this, instead of just doing it himself?
It is rare to get such an explicit statement of purpose in the scriptures; at the end of this Isaiah recitation, consider how these words would have taught them to glorify the name of God.
Do you make any assumptions on the state of Nephite literacy based on this verse? That is, do you assume that because Jacob is reading this to them, that they cannot read it to themselves?
5 And now, the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.
What does this verse teach us about considerations of audience when scripture reading?
I think we usually interpret “likened” to mean something like “this verse was written about other people’s experience, but it also applies to me,” but in this verse, if they are of the House of Israel and this passage was written to the House of Israel, then likening can’t mean that. What do you think “likened” means? (W1828 defines it simply as “to compare.”)
What has Nephi accomplished by including the previous five verses in the record as opposed to just starting with the quotation from Isaiah in v6?
6 And now, these are the words:
Thus saith the Lord God:
Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles,
and set up my standard to the people;
and they shall bring thy sons in their arms,
and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
This verse is identical (after “And now, these are the words:”) to KJV Isa 49:22. In its context in Isaiah, it suggests that it would be the rulers of the Gentiles who would themselves return scattered Israel to its land. (Hence, the sons and daughters carried in their arms.) It is when the Lord God gives his signal (the lifted hand, the standard) that the Gentiles will do this.
Note that I have reformatted this section as poetry; there is general agreement that Isaiah is writing poetry here. If you are not familiar with the basic principles for understanding biblical poetry, I strongly suggest that you become so before continuing.
It is interesting that v5 set us up to be thinking about the House of Israel but the very beginning of the Isaiah recitation concerns the Gentiles. What do you make of this?
A standard is a banner under which an army fights. What does the image of the standard suggest here?
7 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers,
and their queens thy nursing mothers;
they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth,
and lick up the dust of thy feet;
and thou shalt know that I am the Lord;
for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
KJV Isaiah 49:23 is identical except that it has “face” instead of “faces” and “toward” instead of “towards.”
Continuing the theme from v22, this suggests that even the highest ranked Gentiles will help the Israelites return to their land. The Israelites had to bow before the Gentiles when they were scattered; now, the reverse happens.
See v13 for specific interpretation of this verse.
V6-7 mention both men and women; why do you think it was important for Isaiah to include daughters and queens in this passage? (NB that the daughters and queens are doing the same things as the sons and kings, including nursing babies!)
Nursing fathers is a very interesting image; what does this physical impossibility suggest?
Up to this point, the message to Lehi’s people has been “Jrsm will be destroyed because of its iniquity.” As far as we know, this is the first time the message becomes “and then Jrsm will be returned, and the Gentiles subjugated.” What effect do you think this message had on the Nephites? Why would it have been important for them to know this? Is this just “distant history” for them, or is this material relevant to their lives?
Why are nursing kings and queens a good symbol for the subjugation of the Gentiles?
Does this verse teach us anything useful about nursing a baby? (It seems to suggest that it is the ultimate subjugation–but see comments on v12.)
The parallelism of the 1st=2nd and 3rd-4th verse is fairly obvious, but the 5th-6th requires a little more thinking, although the pattern of the verse might suggest that it should be just as obvious as the previous two relationships. So: What is the relationship between knowing the Lord and not being ashamed to serve Him?
Note that this verse from Isaiah is also quoted in 1 Nephi 21:23, and 2 Nephi 10:9. What about this material warranted such frequent repetition?
8 And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.
Can you suss out why Jacob felt compelled to stop and teach here? Does it imply that the message of the previous verses is not entirely obvious?
Given that Lehi already had this knowledge of the destruction of Jrsm, why do you think the Lord showed it to Jacob?
Wouldn’t slain OR carried away have made more sense? Is this a hiccup or might it be in some way significant?
9 Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourge him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.
Why would the Lord show Jacob the return from captivity, which will not directly impact the Nephites?
Why do you think we get a mere summary of this extremely significant vision (words?) that Jacob had, instead of a more thorough recitation of the experience?
Why do you think Jacob’s words from the angel (or: Jacob’s summary) focus on the manifestation and excecution, and not other aspects of Jesus’ life?
Why do you think BoM prophets had so much more vivid explanations of the Savior relative to what we have from Old World prophts?
Is the material in this verse relevant to the Isaiah quotation?
10 And after they have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel, behold, the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted.
Why do you think Jacob favors “the Holy One of Israel” as his title for Jesus Christ in this passage?
Is the smiting and affliction the destruction of Jrsm in c68CE, or something else?
Does this verse see the post-Jesus affliction as another Babylonian captivity?
11 Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.
What does “because of the prayers of the faithful” modify–the afflicting, or the not perishing?
What period(s) of history is described in this verse?
Are the Jews currently gathered in the lands of their inheritance, or does this point to the future?
It seems that Jacob is teaching them to read the Isaiah quotation as operating on two levels: the first level would be to read it as prophecying of the Babylonian captivity and its end and the second level would be the scattering of the Jews after the Roman destruction of Jrsm and then the later regathering. If this is correct, then what is Jacob teaching about the proper interpretation of Isaiah?
12 And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.
Is “the prophet” Isaiah? If so, why not name him here?
Does this verse refer to the Isaiah quotation above, or to Isaiah more generally?
Re-read the Isaiah quotation above. Is “blessed are the Gentiles” a conclusion you would have reached from it? (I would have read the Isaiah quote as more of a “ha ha, suckers!” to the Gentiles; I think Jacob is asking us to read the images of Gentiles subjugation not as a humiliation or punishment but rather as the Gentiles taking part in the kingdom of God–which involves anyone who is a part of it choosing to subjugate themselves to God.)
Do you read repent/not fight Zion/not unite with g and a church as three separate things or as three ways of saying the same thing?
13 Wherefore, they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet; and the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed. For the people of the Lord are they who wait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah.
“Lick up the dust” is quoting v7, as is the idea of not being ashamed.
This verse defined those who fight against Zion as the dust-lickers; v7 defined them as Gentiles; v12 said the Gentiles were blessed. How do you understand this?
14 And behold, according to the words of the prophet, the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover them; wherefore, he will manifest himself unto them in power and great glory, unto the destruction of their enemies, when that day cometh when they shall believe in him; and none will he destroy that believe in him.
Does this verse refer to the Isaiah quote above, or to Isaiah more generally?
15 And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel.
Do you read this verse literally or symbolically?
Why would destruction be the consequence for disbelief here? Do you understand this literally or symbolically? How might you reconcile it with the idea of offering proxy work?
16 For shall the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the lawful captive delivered?
This verse is identical to KJV Isaiah 49:24 except that the KJV does not begin with “for.”
This verse is one of those tricky times when Isaiah changes the speaker/audience without warning. This verse appears to be the (rhetorical) question posed to the Lord: if justice/punishment is due, how can it possibly be avoided?
Above, Jacob was painfully clear when he was about to quote Isaiah, but here he just springs it on us, and we might not notice it if we didn’t already know this was a quotation from Isaiah, and, in fact, a continuation of Isaiah from v7 above. Why do you think he did this? Knowing that this is a continuation, do you read v8-15 differently?
17 But thus saith the Lord:
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered;
for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
For thus saith the Lord:
I will contend with them that contendeth with thee—
This verse quotes Isaiah 49:25, but with some interesting changes. Here is the KJV, with a guide to the changes:
But thus saith the Lord, (identical)
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, (identical)
and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: (identical)
(Note that “for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
For thus saith the Lord:” is not in Isaiah)
for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, (identical save “for”)
and I will save thy children. (This line is not in the BoM)
Nephi, who uses the same passage of Isaiah in his discourse, quotes it exactly the same:
But thus saith the Lord,
even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered;
for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee,
and I will save thy children. (1 Nephi 21:25)
But Jacob’s version reads:
But thus saith the Lord:
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered;
for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
For thus saith the Lord :
I will contend with them that contendeth with thee. (2 Nephi 6:17)
As can be seen from the above comparison, Nephi’s use of a version identical with the biblical passage suggests that the biblical form is correct and that Jacob is not revealing lost Isaiah clauses, but is instead adding his own commentary to emphasize the link between God as warrior and his covenantal obligations to defend and deliver Israel from the enemy.
This is fascinating–I think we usually look at the comparison between Isaiah and the BoM to find “errors” in the KJV text, but this incident lets us know that it is possible that the changes are commentary on those texts by BoM writers. (Side question: How might this impact how you think about the JST?)
V16 wanted a ‘no’ answer, but v17 makes it clear that, through the atonement, the lawful captive can be delivered and the prey taken from the mighty. What did Isaiah accomplish by setting us up that way?
So v16-17: the captors had a right to the captives, but the Lord would save them anyway. The immediate context might be the rescuing of the people from the Babylonian captivity, but a larger meaning might refer to the power of the atonement.
What happens if you think of sinners as prey or lawful captives? What happens to your conception of yourself and of Jesus Christ?
Think more about the word ‘deliver’.
18 And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh;
and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine;
and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Netbible: “Verse 26a depicts siege warfare and bloody defeat. The besieged enemy will be so starved they will [eat] their own flesh. The bloodstained bodies lying on the blood-soaked battle site will look as if they collapsed in drunkenness.”
This verse is identical (save a little punctuation) to KJV Isaiah 49:26.
What do you take from the image of the Lord making the oppressors eat their own flesh? (Yuck.) Is this some sort of perverse inversion of the sacrament?
What is the relationship between eating their own flesh and all flesh knowing who the Lord is?
So Jacob is quoting Isaiah referring to the OT Jacob? That’s pretty meta . . .
What do you make of the multiplicity of titles in this verse?
1 Yea, for thus saith the Lord:
Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever?
For thus saith the Lord:
Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement?
To whom have I put thee away,
or to which of my creditors have I sold you?
Yea, to whom have I sold you?
Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves,
and for your transgressions is your mother put away.
This verse quotes KJV Isaiah 50:1 but adds “Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever?” to the beginning and “Yea, to whom have I sold you?” in the middle.
The KJV reads “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away?” This is a very significant difference; the KJV has the mother/wife being put away; the BoM has the mother divorced, but the children put away.
Note that even though this verse and the last verse are both Isaiah quotations, they are not contiguous in Isaiah.
Netbible: “The Lord challenges the exiles (Zion’s children) to bring incriminating evidence against him. The rhetorical questions imply that Israel accused the Lord of divorcing his wife (Zion) and selling his children (the Israelites) into slavery to pay off a debt. The Lord admits that he did sell the Israelites, but it was because of their sins, not because of some debt he owed. If he had sold them to a creditor, they ought to be able to point him out, but the preceding rhetorical question implies they would not be able to do so. The Lord admits he did divorce Zion, but that too was the result of the nation’s sins.”
Why the emphasis on “thus saith the Lord” in this verse?
Does the “have I put you away” line refer to children or to wife? In other words, to whom is the Lord speaking in the various parts of this verse, and does the image change?
Do you think the Nephites were feeling forsaken? This passage was written to address people who felt that the Lord was not keeping up his end of the bargain. Are the Nephites, like the Israelites, sold for this own sins here? (In other words, when the angel told Nephi to get away from L&L, was that separation the result of sin on the part of Nephi and his followers? In a world where Nephi had acted differently, would that separation have been necessary?) If this is not the situation of the Nephites, then why do you think Jacob is quoting this scripture at them?
When do we feel as if the Lord had given us away? Why do we feel this way?
The context here is pretty clear, but I have to admit that I have always wondered if the “mother put away” line might not be applied to Heavenly Mother as well.
2 Wherefore, when I came, there was no man;
when I called, yea, there was none to answer.
O house of Israel,
is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem,
or have I no power to deliver?
Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make their rivers a wilderness and their fish to stink
because the waters are dried up,
and they die because of thirst.
This verse quotes KJV Isaiah 50:2, but that verse has a question (“when I called, was there none to answer?”) where the BoM has a statement. The phrase “O house of Israel” is not in Isaiah. It has “stinketh” instead of “to stink” and “because there is no water” instead of “because the waters are dried up” and “dieth for thirst” instead of “they die because of thirst.”
Net Bible: “Why does no one challenge me when I come?
Why does no one respond when I call?
Is my hand too weak to deliver you?
Do I lack the power to rescue you?”
This makes sense of the verse–these questions show that no one challenges the Lord and that he is perfectly capable of delivering them–he hasn’t delivered them by choice, not because he can’t. (One wonders if the Nephites were starting to wonder about this, too,–since the Lord had removed them from the presence of the Lamanites instead of giving them a military victory over them. Perhaps they wondered if the Lord really could have delivered the Israelites or the Nephites.) Of course, by removing the punctuation and turning the questions into statements, the BoM changes the thrust of the first part of the verse and, therefore, the entire verse. I’m not sure what to make of the first two lines of the BoM verse, unless we just assume that it should have been questions as well.
Point: our distance from God is always of our own doing.
How does the material after “behold”, which seems to have to do with the Lord’s judgment pouring out, relate to the material before it? (It is a reminder of the Lord’s power.)
Jacob’s addition of “House of Israel” is interesting, since he points out at the beginning that Isaiah’s words apply to the Nephites as a part of the House of Israel.
3 I clothe the heavens with blackness,
and I make sackcloth their covering.
This verse is identical to Isaiah 50:3.
This verse is probably best read as a continuation of the thought from the previous verse, which is demonstrating the Lord’s control over nature and is therefore evidence of his ability to save them.
4 The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned,
that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee,
O house of Israel.
When ye are weary he waketh morning by morning.
He waketh mine ear to hear as the learned.
This verse quotes KJV Isaiah 50:4. The KJV replaces “unto thee, O house of Israel. When ye are weary ” with “to him that is weary”
We have a shift here–in the previous verses, the Lord was speaking to the House of Israel. Here, the narrator is speaking about the Lord. What explains the shift? Jim F. says, “Verses 4-9: There are two interpretations of these verses. According to one, the Lord is speaking; according to the other, Isaiah is speaking. What do we learn if we think of this as Isaiah speaking? What do we learn if we think of it as the Lord?”
Again, Jacob adds references to the House of Israel as the audience.
tongue of the learned = capacity to be his spokesman
final line = makes me attentive to learn like disciples do
I also like the idea that this servant learned “morning by morning” or as we might say, line upon line. It wasn’t a huge flash of insight, but the slow accumulation of learning and wisdom.
I like the idea that the Lord helped this servant to develop great speaking ability not as an end in itself or for self-aggrandizement, but to bless the weary in Israel with comfort and consolation. What a great pattern for thinking about how we use our gifts!
What does this verse teach you about the process of learning?
Who is the “ye” in this verse? Who is the “he”?
How do the phrases of this verse fit together?
5 The Lord God hath opened mine ear,
and I was not rebellious,
neither turned away back.
This verse is identical to Isaiah 50:5.
Consider the relationship in this verse: the Lord spoke to the servant, and the servant chose not to be rebellious or back away. The servant was always obedient to what God taught him. (So the servant here is not Israel, unless it is being idealized.)
The idea of God opening the servant’s ear suggests that neither the servant nor God did all of the work–God provided the servant with wisdom beyond the servant’s capacity, but the servant chose to respond to that wisdom with obedience.
6 I gave my back to the smiter,
and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.
I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
This verse is identical to KJV Isaiah 50:6, except that it has “smiters” (plural)
The back and cheeks suggests complete submission to a complete attack. The ripping out of the beard may also have additional connotations of violation, given the religious significance of the beard. It is worth noting that the gospels do not record Jesus’ beard being ripped out; there is more of a symbolic portrait of humiliation than a literal prophecy of specific events here.
Also note the servant’s reaction: just as he didn’t turn away from God in v5, he doesn’t turn away from the attackers here. He is open to what he is given.
Another link to v5: the inevitable result of obedience to God (v5) is suffering at the hands of the wicked (v6).
7 For the Lord God will help me,
therefore shall I not be confounded.
Therefore have I set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
This verse is identical to KJV Isaiah 50:7.
I’m kind of bowled over by the idea that his first response to the suffering he endures in v6 is to say “God will help me.”
Some modern translations use “humiliated” instead of “confounded” here. Interesting to think that God helps the servant not by stopping the event, but by helping to shape the servant’s perception of the event.
face like flint = steadfast
I love this message: because I know that God will always help me shape my perception of events (even when terrible events cannot be stopped) I can face the future as steadfastly as if I were made of flint. The ABAB structure of the verse emphasizes that it is the Lord’s help that makes the ‘face like flint’ possible.
Last reference to flint was a very negative one–the Lamanites.
Most readers would assume that v6 applied to Jesus Christ. If that is so, how do you read the “not confounded/humiliated” part of this verse?
8 And the Lord is near,
and he justifieth me.
Who will contend with me? Let us stand together.
Who is mine adversary? Let him come near me,
and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth.
This verse is based on Isaiah 50:8, but the KJV has this for the first line: “He is near that justifieth me” and does not have the final line “and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth.”
stand together = confront each other
come near me = challenge me
I love that, in the midst of this attack, the servant’s focus is on the fact that the Lord is near.
The third and fourth lines serve to remind everyone that the servant is, in fact, innocent, and willing and able to stand up to anyone who were to accuse him. And yet, see above, he is not standing up for himself but humbly accepting this painful attack. It is hard to know what to do with the final line that the BoM adds, because it changes this picture to one where the servant does respond to the attack.
9 For the Lord God will help me.
And all they who shall condemn me,
behold, all they shall wax old as a garment,
and the moth shall eat them up.
This verse is based on KJV Isaiah 50:9, which reads “Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up. “
10 Who is among you that feareth the Lord,
that obeyeth the voice of his servant,
that walketh in darkness and hath no light?
This verse is identical to Isaiah 50:10, except the KJV has this at the end of the verse: “let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. “ This makes for a huge change in the thrust of the verse.
This verse seems to be another shift, perhaps the servant is still speaking, but now the audience is brought into the conversation with the second person pronoun and is addressed directly.
Are these three different things or three ways of describing one thing? It is hard to know what to make of the three items: the first two sound like things we should aspire to, but what about the third? Is it a positive thing, inasmuch as it shows faith to walk in the dark, or a negative, inasmuch as it shows someone who is in the dark? (You should probably read v11 before answering that question!)
11 Behold all ye that kindle fire,
that compass yourselves about with sparks,
walk in the light of your fire
and in the sparks which ye have kindled.
This shall ye have of mine hand—
ye shall lie down in sorrow.
This verse is virtually identical to KJV Isaiah 50:11.
compass with sparks = equip with flaming arrows
So these people have ignited their own fire (associated with weapons, probably) to avoid the dark of the previous verse. The result of this is set out in the last two lines: they will get sorrow from the Lord. This confirms my suspicion that the walking in darkness in the previous verse would have been a *good* thing, as opposed to making your own light and getting in trouble for it in this verse.
Usually, the righteous are in the light and the wicked in the dark. Why is the image reversed here? Where is the light in verse 11 coming from? Why are the righteous in the dark? How does this all relate to the last line of the verse before it?
What would this verse have meant to Jacob’s Nephite audience? That is, what was happening around them that constituting creating your own light?
1 Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness.
Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn,
and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.
KJV Isaiah 51:1: “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. “
BoM changes ‘to’ to ‘unto’ and removes “ye that seek the Lord.”
hewn means chiseled; pit means quarry
How does this relate to the last verse of the last chapter–is there a contrast between light (bad) and quarry (good)?
So: What is the rock and quarry from which seekers after righteousness come? What exactly should they be looking for when they look to them?
Interesting that the specific audience in this verse is people who are seeking after righteousness.
This verse pictures the righteous as, what, exactly–quarried rock? Why would that be a good image?
2 Look unto Abraham, your father,
and unto Sarah, she that bare you;
for I called him alone,
and blessed him.
KJV Isaiah 51:2: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.”
BoM adds “she that” and omits “and increased him.”
The last two lines sound like a slam against Sarah, but they can be translated as: “When I summoned him, he was a lone individual, but I blessed him and gave him numerous descendants.” (NetBible; the ‘and I gave him numerous descendants’ wouldn’t be in the BoM text.) This points to Sarah’s role in the descendants that they had together.
Are Abraham and Sarah the rock and the quarry per se, or just examples of possibilities of looking to one’s source? (Or: What is the relationship of this verse to the one before it?)
What can men learn from Sarah? What can women learn from Abraham?
What do you make of the fact that Abraham and Sarah are seen as the source–not Adam and Eve, or Moses, or someone else? What does that focus the reader on?
When the righteous think about Abraham and Sarah, what exactly should they be thinking about?
3 For the Lord shall comfort Zion,
he will comfort all her waste places;
and he will make her wilderness like Eden,
and her desert like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness shall be found therein,
thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
KJV Isaiah 51:3 is identical (save a little punctuation).
How does this relate to the previous verse? Is it the result of “looking” to your source(s), or an entirely different topic? It may be that, just like the barren Abraham ultimately had progeny, the barren Jrsm (because of the destruction and captivity by Babylon) would ultimately be renewed.
“found therein” can be translated as “restored” (NetBible), suggesting that this verse is describing the idea that, despite the destruction and captivity, it is possible for Zion to rise again to its former glory. One wonders how the Nephites would have taken this news!
4 Hearken unto me, my people;
and give ear unto me, O my nation;
for a law shall proceed from me,
and I will make my judgment to rest for a light for the people.
KJV Isaiah 51:4 “Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.”
BoM changes “of the people” to “for the people.” (Although Skousen thinks the BoM text should be “of.”)
judgment = justice
This verse suggests that, when the events in v3 happen, it will be a law (in the sense of: an example or lesson of what the Lord does) to the entire world. The fact that he keeps his covenants and blesses his people will cause many Gentiles to want to follow him (=a light for the people).
Compare the light in this verse to the light that got them into trouble at the end of the last chapter. What do you conclude? How do we know what our source of light is?
5 My righteousness is near;
my salvation is gone forth,
and mine arm shall judge the people.
The isles shall wait upon me,
and on mine arm shall they trust.
KJV Isaiah 51:5: “My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. “
BoM changes “arms” to “arm.”
Netbible: “I am ready to vindicate,
I am ready to deliver,
I will establish justice among the nations.
The coastlands wait patiently for me;
they wait in anticipation for the revelation of my power.”
This verse extends the theme of v5–the Lord’s action of restoring Jrsm wouldn’t be just for them, but would extend to the isles/coastlands. It is interesting to think about how the Nephites would have interpreted this promise–I assume it would have been very meaningful to them since it would apply to them more directly than promises of a renewed Jrsm would have.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look upon the earth beneath;
for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke,
and the earth shall wax old like a garment;
and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner.
But my salvation shall be forever,
and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
KJV Isaiah 51:6 is virtually identical.
Above, it was enemies who waxed old like a garment. (See also v8.) Is this verse then conflating enemies with the earth?
The function of this verse is to make a contrast between the heavens and earth, which are not eternal, and the Lord’s salvation and righteousness, which are.
7 Hearken unto me,
ye that know righteousness,
the people in whose heart I have written my law,
fear ye not the reproach of men,
neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
KJV Isaiah 51:7: “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. “
BoM replaces “is” with “I have written.”
The point is: they should be like the servant above, who do not change their behavior based on the response wicked people make to their behavior.
8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment,
and the worm shall eat them like wool.
But my righteousness shall be forever,
and my salvation from generation to generation.
KJV Isaiah 51:8 is virtually identical.
Again, a contrast is made between the destruction of the wicked and the permanence of righteousness and salvation.
The Nephites have just undergone their own mini-deportation, in the sense that they were directed to leave the Lamanites (obviously not as big a deal as having their main city destroyed, lots of people killed, and taken into captivity, but nonetheless disorienting and perhaps causing them to question whether the Lord would keep to his promise of giving them a promised land).
9 Awake, awake!
Put on strength, O arm of the Lord;
awake as in the ancient days.
Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab,
and wounded the dragon?
KJV Isaiah 51:9: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? “
BoM omits “in the generations of old” and replaces “it” with “he.”
Note that we have another shift here: now the people are speaking to the Lord, not the Lord to the righteous people, as above. It is very important to be cognizant of these shifts.
So the people here are asking the Lord to “wake up!” and save them.
Thomas Constable: ‘His arm had defeated the Egyptians and Pharaoh in the Exodus in the past, here described respectively as Rahab (lit. proud one, cf. 30:7; Ps. 87:4) and the dragon (cf. Ezek. 29:3). Rahab and the dragon were also part of the mythological lore of the ancient Near East. By using these names, Isaiah was undoubtedly stressing Yahweh’s ability to overcome all the pagan gods and every other power opposing their salvation.”
10 Art thou not he who hath dried the sea,
the waters of the great deep;
that hath made the depths of the sea
a way for the ransomed to pass over?
KJV Isaiah 51:10: “Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”
BoM replaces “it” with “he” (and therefore “which” with “who”).
In other words: we know you saved the Hebrews in Egypt, can’t you do the same for us now?
Consider v9-10: Do you think of it as a reverent and appropriate way to talk to the Lord (“Get up and help me!”)?
11 Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return,
and come with singing unto Zion;
and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads;
and they shall obtain gladness and joy;
sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
KJV Isaiah 51:11: “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”
BoM adds “and holiness” after joy and changes “head” to “heads.”
This is a picture of how joyful the people would be when they returned from the Babylonian captivity. In a larger sense, it can be read as a picture of the joy that we will feel when we return to the presence of the Lord.
12 I am he; yea,
I am he that comforteth you.
Behold, who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of man, who shall die,
and of the son of man, who shall be made like unto grass?
KJV Isaiah 51:12: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; “
BoM changes “I, even I” to “I am he, yea” and adds “behold,” changes “of a man” to “of man.”
Note that we have another change in speaker and audience here: now the Lord is speaking to them!
The son of man almost certainly is not a reference to Jesus Christ here, but is used in its older meaning as just a way to refer to any person.
Again, the point is made that the righteous should not be afraid of people, but of God.
I really like the self-definition of God given at the beginning of this verse: “I am he that comforts you.” What a way for the ruler of the entire universe to describe himself!
13 And forgettest the Lord thy maker,
that hath stretched forth the heavens,
and laid the foundations of the earth,
and hast feared continually every day,
because of the fury of the oppressor,
as if he were ready to destroy?
And where is the fury of the oppressor?
KJV Isaiah 51:13 is virtually identical.
Note that there are two questions in this verse–the first six phrases are all one big question (“Do you forget the Lord . . .”)
It’s a crazy question, really, to think that people would forget the Lord. And, yet, we all do it. How do you think we can decrease the gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do?
This verse makes a contrast: the people have forgotten the Lord, but they fear those who oppress them. This makes no sense; it should be just the opposite. (We all fall prey to this.)
Do you think it is a fair summary of this verse to say: to fear humans is to have forgotten God?
14 The captive exile hasteneth, that he may be loosed,
and that he should not die in the pit,
nor that his bread should fail.
KJV Isaiah 51:14 is virtually identical.
hasteneth that he may be loosed = will soon be released
pit = prison
bread fail = go hungry
Thomas Constable: “God promised to free the exiles soon and to supply their needs. Westerners tend to read verses like this one through individualistic glasses. We ask if there were not individuals who died in exile. There probably were. The prophet’s perspective was much more collective; he viewed the Israelites as a unit. By saying they would not die in exile he meant that the nation would not cease to exist while in captivity. While this was true of the Babylonian exiles, the promises of salvation in this section of the book anticipate a larger spiritual redemption as well, as I have noted. In fact, life in Babylonian exile was far from harsh for most of the Israelites (cf. Jer. 29:4-7), so much so that most of them chose not to return to the Promised Land when they could.”
15 But I am the Lord thy God,
whose waves roared;
the Lord of Hosts is my name.
KJV Isaiah 51:15: “But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name.”
BoM omits “that divided the sea.”
The thrust of the verse is that the Lord causes the waves to roar.
16 And I have put my words in thy mouth,
and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand,
that I may plant the heavens
and lay the foundations of the earth,
and say unto Zion:
Behold, thou art my people.
KJV Isaiah 51:16 is virtually identical.
NB the shift: the Lord is still talking, but now only to one person. This person is commissioned to share the Lord’s words and given the job of creating heaven and earth.
17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem,
which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury
—thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling wrung out—
KJV Isaiah 51:17 is virtually identical except that is has “and wrung them out“ instead of “wrung out.”
NB the shift–now Jrsm is addressed.
This verse picture Jrsm having drinken the cup of wrath, of the judgment of the captivity.
What do you make of the fact that the people just asked the Lord to awake, and now he is asking them to awake?
18 And none to guide her among all the sons she hath brought forth;
neither that taketh her by the hand, of all the sons she hath brought up.
KJV Isaiah 51:18 has some slight changes: “There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up. “
This verse pictures the state of the people who now have no human to rely on. They are pictured as a drunken woman (v17), who can’t get home on her own power, and none of her children will help her. This might be a stretch, but perhaps the Nephites saw themselves as one of the children who were unable to help.
19 These two sons are come unto thee,
who shall be sorry for thee
—thy desolation and destruction,
and the famine and the sword
—and by whom shall I comfort thee?
KJV Isaiah 51:19: “These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?”
BoM changes “things” to “sons.” (But since “things” is in italics in the KJV and since ‘sons’ is in the next verse and the previous verse, it may be the case that the KJV should have read ‘sons.’) The things might also be “two disasters” that confront her (perhaps her own inability to get home, and her sons’ inability to help her?).
The thrust of the verse is that no one feels sorry for her or comforts her, despite her distress.
20 Thy sons have fainted, save these two;
they lie at the head of all the streets;
as a wild bull in a net,
they are full of the fury of the Lord,
the rebuke of thy God.
KJV Isaiah 51:20: “Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.”
BoM adds “save these two,” presumably in reference to the two sons (mentioned in the BoM, implied in the KJV) in v19.
Thomas Constable: “The children lay at major intersections of the city as exhausted as an antelope (oryx) caught in a net by its hunters. They too had suffered the wrath and rebuke of their God (cf. vv. 2, 17).”
This verse pictures all of the dead in Jrsm after the destruction. (Or, more metaphorically, that the drunken woman’s children are dead–perhaps due to her neglect.)
So the BoM version is very different here: it suggests that there are “two sons” who can help Jrsm. (The KJV has no one available to help her.) In the BoM version, who would the two sons be? What might they symbolize?
21 Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted,
and drunken, and not with wine:
KJV Isaiah 51:21 is virtually identical.
Drunken, not with wine suggests that they are drunk with the wrath of the Lord.
This is a turning point in the passage: things will shift now from a picture of hopelessness to one of promise.
22 Thus saith thy Lord,
the Lord and thy God pleadeth the cause of his people;
behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling,
the dregs of the cup of my fury;
thou shalt no more drink it again.
KJV Isaiah 51:22 is virtually identical.
This verse pictures an end to Jrsm’s state–she no longer has to drink the cup of wrath because the Lord has taken it away.
It is possible to read this verse as pointing to the atonement–the people will no longer need to drink of the cup because Jesus will for them.
23 But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee;
who have said to thy soul:
Bow down, that we may go over
—and thou hast laid thy body as the ground
and as the street to them that went over.
KJV Isaiah 51:23 is virtually identical.
This verse says that the cup will be given to those who tormented them, who made them (figuratively) lie down and be walked on.
24 Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion;
put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
KJV Isaiah 52:1 is virtually identical.
The point of this verse is that enemies (the uncircumcised and the unclean) will no longer come into Jrsm.
Not only will she not be drunken and humiliated, but she’s invited to dress up! The reference to clothing may suggest priesthood, since a key component of OT priesthood was its ritual clothing.
From the D&C: “Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52nd chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion-and what people had Isaiah reference to?
He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.
What are we to understand by Zion loosing herself from the bands of her neck; 2nd verse?
We are to understand that the scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen; which if they do, the promise of the Lord is that he will speak to them, or give them revelation. See the 6th, 7th, and 8th verses. The bands of her neck are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles. (113:7–10)”
25 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down,
loose thyself from the bands of thy neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.
KJV Isaiah 52:2 is virtually identical.
1 And now, my beloved brethren, I have read these things that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel—
Review the previous chapter and see what it teaches about covenants.
2 That he has spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets, even from the beginning down, from generation to generation, until the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God; when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.
What do you make of the plural “prophet” when he was quoting one prophet?
Is “church and fold” two things or two ways of saying one thing? What does this verse suggest about what the word “church” means? What does the image of the fold (presumably sheepfold?) suggest?
3 Behold, my beloved brethren, I speak unto you these things that ye may rejoice, and lift up your heads forever, because of the blessings which the Lord God shall bestow upon your children.
NB that the point of that Isaiah citation was that we would rejoice in the covenant. I think this would have been particularly poignant to the double-exiled Nephites.
4 For I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come; wherefore I know that ye know that our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God.
Almost sounds like he is quoting Job here.
Does this verse imply that many people in their community had access to written scripture?
5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.
What is the link between their bodies (v4), in which they will see God, and Jesus’ body (this verse), in which he will appear in Jrsm? Does this relate to the fact that their bodies are currently removed from Jrsm?
Behoove=to be necessary
What is accomplished by referring to him as the creator in this verse, as opposed to some other title?
We see “and die for all men” as the crux of the atonement; does this verse suggest that “to become subject unto man in the flesh” is just as critical? If so, what would that imply? What would it teach about humility and subjugation?
This verse sets up this chain:
Jesus becomes subject unto all men
Jesus dies for all men
Therefore all men are subject unto Jesus
What do you make of this logic? Why would becoming subject unto all men make all men subject to Jesus? What does this principle teach that might be applicable in our own lives?
6 For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Why do you think “merciful” was chosen to modify “plan” in this sentence?
Why “power of resurrection” instead of “resurrection”?
Work through the logic of this verse. How do the ideas in it relate to each other?
7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
Why exactly does it need to be an infinite atonement? Is human sin infinite?
What would it mean for corruption to put on incorruption? What does that image suggest?
Why “mother earth”?
8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
Is Jacob saying that a spirit without a body must be subject to Satan?
Notice the link between the bodies in v7 who rise no more, and the devil in this verse, who rises no more. What exactly is that link?
9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.
I think this is the first reference to secret combinations in the BoM. Jim F.: “Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that a combination is an intimate union of several persons that has the purpose of bringing something about together. Does secrecy make a combination bad? If so, why? If not, why is it the modifier used here? How are secret combinations antithetical to the gospel? (2 Nephi 26:22-28 discusses this.) What kinds of things might count as secret combinations today?beyond the things that we sometimes hear mentioned in very conservative political discussions? Given the definition I cited, can we be part of a secret combination without knowing that we are? How do we avoid such combinations? How did the Book of Mormon people avoid them, when they did?”
Is there a relationship between father of lies in this verse and mother earth above?
I’m intrigued by transforming himself into an angel of light. . .
What does the image of stirring up suggest about what Satan does to humans?
What is the link between the supposed angel of light and secret works of darkness?
10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
What work is “monster” doing here? What is its relation to “monster” in the Isaiah quote above?
What does the word “grasp” suggest to you about how Satan interacts with people?
I would have assumed that the monster was Satan in the beginning of the verse, but then Jacob clarifies that the monster is death and hell. Does this surprise you?
Is Jacob saying that “death and hell” is synonymous with “the death of the body and the death of the Spirit”? If not, how do you understand this verse?
11 And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.
In this verse and v11, the idea that a death can “deliver up” its dead personifies it. (Same is true with paradise delivering up the righteous in the next verse.) What is accomplished by the personification of the two deaths?
So temporal death = grave and spiritual death = hell.
13 O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
Skousen thinks it should be “bodies” of the righteous.
So body + spirit = soul.
What does it mean to have a perfect knowledge? (See v14). Why would having a perfect knowledge requiring the uniting of body and spirit?
What does “like unto us in the flesh” mean? Is Jacob saying that they have a perfect knowledge?
14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.
Why is clothing a good symbol for righteousness here?
Jim F.: “What kind of symbolism do you see in the contrast between guilt, uncleanness, and nakedness on the one hand, and enjoyment and the clothing of purity and the robe of righteousness on the other hand? Does reference back to 2 Nephi 4:33 add any meaning to this verse? Why does Jacob identify himself with the wicked at the beginning of the verse (“we shall have a perfect knowledge of our guilt”)? “
Notice the use of “our” in this verse–why is Jacob classing himself with the unrighteous?
Notice the pattern:
unrighteous — righteous
guilt — enjoyment
uncleaness — righteousness
nakedness — clothed with purity, even the robe . . .
What do you learn from the pairing of guilt and enjoyment? Why do you think he moves to something symbolic in the fourth pairing? Is that related to the nakedness/clothing in the Garden of Eden?
15 And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God.
16 And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.
Skousen omits “as” from after “torment is.”
Why are fire and brimstone a good metaphor for torment?
This verse seems to imagine the filthy as the devil and his angels. Then there is the righteous. What about other people/groups?
Why so many statements of assurance at the beginning of the verse?
17 O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.
18 But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
Again, I am struck by Jacob’s preference for the title “Holy One of Israel.”
Jim F.: “What are the crosses of the world? Who are those who have endured those crosses? Does this verse and those that follow have any connection to the passage from Isaiah that Jacob read? Why is the cross an important symbol in the Book of Mormon?”
What would “crosses” have meant to Jacob? (Crosses were used by the Roman Empire . . .) Perhaps this is a gloss on Joseph Smith’s part in the translation?
19 O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
20 O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
(How) does this verse relate to the one before it? The one after it?
21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
“The pains” interests me–not “the sins.” Or is that the same thing?
22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.
What is the link between suffering and resurrection?
Why mention the judgment after the resurrection?
23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
Do we really need perfect faith to be saved? If not, what does the verse mean? Is there a relationship between perfect faith here and perfect knowledge above?
24 And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.
This verse repeats the sequence from the last verse, but replaces “perfect faith” with “endure to the end.” What do you make of that change?
25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.
This verse starts out just fine: you need a law for punishment, you need punishment for condemnation. OK, good so far. But then we find out that we need condemnation in order for mercy. That is counter-intuitive.
26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.
Why do you think Jacob compares hell to a monster? What does that image suggest? Is this related to the monster in the Isaiah quotation?
Jim. F.: “We sometimes speak as if the atonement is required because there is a law that God must obey. Does Jacob speak that way? What does he say? Who has given the law? Whose justice is it that must be satisfied? “
Does the atonement satisfy the demands of justice for those who have the law? Does the next verse answer that question?
27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!
Did the Nephites really have all of the commandments?
28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
How would you describe the difference between learning and wisdom?
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.
Skousen reads “if it so be that they hearken” here.
It seems to me that the best parsing of v28-29 is that the focus is not on learning, or intellectualism, or anti-intellectualism, but on listening to God. If one is doing that, the states of one’s learning (or lack thereof) is not material to one’s righteousness.
30 But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.
Does this verse permit a category of “righteous rich”, especially given the clarification in v29 that there can in fact be righteous learned people? (But cf. v42.)
Why would earthly riches cause you to persecute the meek?
31 And wo unto the deaf that will not hear; for they shall perish.
32 Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also.
33 Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.
We usually use deaf and blind to refer to those who have no choice in the matter; what is implied in these verses where the deaf and blind are choosing their states? Further, how does (chosen) deafness and blindness relate to an uncircumcised heart?
What does the image of an uncircumcised heart suggest? Why is it related to iniquities the way that the deaf/blind is related to lack of hearing/seeing?
34 Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.
35 Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth, for he shall die.
36 Wo unto them who commit whoredoms, for they shall be thrust down to hell.
37 Yea, wo unto those that worship idols, for the devil of all devils delighteth in them.
Unlike the OT, idol worship is not a major theme in the BoM. Why do you think that is?
38 And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.
Why do you think Jacob mentions the return to God and beholding His face in this verse? Don’t we usually consider the presence of God to be only for the righteous?
How does this verse mesh with our thoughts about post-mortal repentance and proxy temple work?
This article reads these “wo”s as a reinterpretation of the Decalogue.
39 O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.
What would it look like for you to be more spiritually-minded and less carnally-minded? Outside of the obvious sexual sins, what does it mean to be carnally-minded?
Russell M. Nelson reminds us that this verse is not anti-body; he quotes it and then says:
Now don’t misunderstand me. I would not want you to neglect your body. It deserves daily care. Physical conditioning through regular exercise requires self-mastery too. Oct 1985 GC
40 O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.
Jacob is here giving a metric for self-assessment via response to his words: if you like them, you are righteous. If you want to revile them, you are unclean.
41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
Skousen reads “that his paths are righteousness” here.
Dwell on the imagery in this verse for a moment. What can you learn from it?
42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.
“Fools before God”–interesting.
Why does it make sense to group the rich with the learned and the wise, especially when the solution is to become a “fool”?
43 But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever—yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.
44 O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood.
What does the object lesson of the shaking garments teach the audience? Presumably the dirt on the garments that is shaken off symbolizes their iniquities/blood. What does this suggest? How does it relate to the righteous robe above?
“All-searching eye” is interesting.
45 O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation.
Is shaking off the chains related to shaking off the iniquities in the verse above?
Why are chains and a rock good opposites?
46 Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery.
“Prey” was used recently . . .
Does it surprise you that Jacob talks about his guilt here? (Cf. v14 above.)
47 But behold, my brethren, is it expedient that I should awake you to an awful reality of these things? Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if ye were freed from sin?
Does the ‘awake’ language recall Lehi’s last words to L&L?
What do you make of the pairing of souls/minds in the second question?
Are the assumed answers to his question yes, no, no? Does that mix of answers surprise you?
48 Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin.
I find it interesting that he is only speaking to people who chose to follow Nephi. (How long has it been?) They are not holy.
49 Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in righteousness; and I will praise the holy name of my God.
What do you make of the soul/heart, abhor/delight, sin/righteousness pattern?
What do you make of abhor, delight, praise?
50 Come, my brethren,
every one that thirsteth,
come ye to the waters;
and he that hath no money,
come buy and eat;
yea, come buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
KJV Isaiah 55:1: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. “
This is a truly beautiful picture of the atonement.
Why do you think we get this Isaiah quotation without any introduction?
I just love this verse: to me, an invitation such as this one reflects the essence of Christianity.
51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth,
nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy.
Hearken diligently unto me,
and remember the words which I have spoken;
and come unto the Holy One of Israel,
and feast upon that which perisheth not,
neither can be corrupted,
and let your soul delight in fatness.
KJV Isaiah 55:2: “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. “
Significant changes in the BoM from the KJV here.
52 Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice.
53 And behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.
What do you make of his pluralizing condescension here?
54 And now, my brethren, I would speak unto you more; but on the morrow I will declare unto you the remainder of my words. Amen.
Why do you think this verse was included in the record?
Joe Spencer’s outline of this chapter:
Verses 4b-7: Introductory – Basic outline of the doctrine of the flesh
Verses 8-27: First series of (six) O’s, all marking praise of God
Verses 8-9: First “O!” – On the corruption of the flesh
Verses 10-12: Second “O!” – The triumph over hell
Verses 13-16: Third “O!” – The resurrection of the righteous and judgment of the wicked
Verses 17-18: Fourth “O!” – The judgment of the righteous
Verse 19: Fifth “O!” – Double deliverance
Verses 20-27: Sixth “O!” – Law and atonement
Verse 28a: Transitional “O!” – Satan’s cunning
Verses 28b-46: Second series of (six) O’s, all exhorting humans to repent
Verses 28b-38: First “O!” – A series of woes
Verse 39: Second “O!” – Against seduction by Satan
Verse 40: Third “O!” – On hearkening to the truth
Verses 41-43: Fourth “O!” – Passing into God’s presence
Verse 44: Fifth “O!” – Shaking off the blood of a generation
Verses 45-46: Sixth “O!” – Preparation for the judgment
Verses 47-52: Concluding – Justification of the sermon and final invitation
1 And now I, Jacob, speak unto you again, my beloved brethren, concerning this righteous branch of which I have spoken.
Cf. 9:54: Why were these two verses included in the record?
2 For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer.
Does “according to the flesh” relate to the discussion about body and spirit in ch10? What does it mean? Does it mean that they are not eternal promises?
Why would unbelief result in perishing in the flesh?
3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
Fascinating that Jacob didn’t know Christ/messiah until this point. Interesting that he would teach that, and that it would be included in the record.
“Christ” is a title, not a name. Why does Jacob call it a name?
Were the Jews only more wicked because they had more law to violate?
What do you make of the last line in this verse?
4 For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God.
What was it about (some of) the Judeans that made them impervious to the effects of Jesus’ miracles? In other circumstances, wouldn’t we be suspicious of people who believed because they saw miracles?
(How) does what is going on in this verse relate to Matthew 11:20-24?
5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.
6 Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations.
Why do you think Jacob was focused on the iniquitous and not the hundreds or thousands of people who believed in and followed Jesus and the first disciples?
Why do you think this verse refers to “iniquities” when v5 refers to “priestcrafts and iniquities”?
Does this refer to the Fall of Jrsm in 67/68AD? How do you know?
7 But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance.
8 And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.
9 Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them,
and their queens shall become nursing mothers;
wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles,
for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute?
Why the repeat from above?
Isn’t the promise in the first two phrases to *the Jews*? Why does the third line refer to great promises to the Gentiles?
10 But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.
11 And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.
How does the lack of kings on this land relate to the idea of nursing kings?
Does this verse (and v14) have any bearing on whether we understand Nephi to be a king?
12 And I will fortify this land against all other nations.
13 And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.
14 For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words.
Does this verse have any bearing on whether you understand Nephi to be a king?
15 Wherefore, for this cause, that my covenants may be fulfilled which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh, I must needs destroy the secret works of darkness, and of murders, and of abominations.
Any sense of what specifically he is referring to in the last line?
16 Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.
How do you mesh the last line with, for example, Pres. Hinckley’s call to invite non-LDS to bring all the good they have with them?
17 For I will fulfil my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh—
18 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.
19 Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God.
Where is this land where everyone worships God?
20 And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.
Do you read the final line literally?
I think this verse is an interpretive key to understanding the Nephite mindset that Jacob was addressing.
21 But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren.
22 For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also.
23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
25 Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.
He does a very good job of parsing the meaning of the alterations to the KJV Isaiah in the BoM.
(2) Joe Spencer’s Sunday School Lesson Notes